punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dear Upcoming Presidential Election, I Already Hate You

Dear Upcoming Presidential Election, let's just get this out of the way now.

I already hate you.  In fact I've hated all four of you that I have voted in so far.

I grew up loving you, intrigued by you, eager to know you and finally become a part of you, hoping to one day be standing there at your conventions in my red, white and blue top hat and casting my vote in with candidate that truly represented Joe Shmoe 'Merika.

But now I see you for what you are.  An overly expensive, farcical dog and pony show whose two candidates leave me morally bankrupt on different levels.

None of the lesser known candidates I really admire will ever make it to President let alone lead the party platform.  They'll get shot down in the first round...again, as will my hope for true change.

Let's skip to the final chapter, shall we presidential election?

At your culmination, we will again have a president who will sit in office for the next four years, passing policies that will rarely ever inspire me on a good day, and blame the opposing party for stalling them the rest of the time.

I just want you to know ahead of time from me that we are not friends, presidential election. You don't like, know or even care to know me and I certainly am sick at the very mention of you.

I am disappointed in you, ashamed of you and if I could avoid ever mentioning you to my children I would.  But the day will come when I will have to tell them about you, and what being a part of you means for someone so wholly and repeatedly disappointed in you with no end to the let downs in sight.

I doubt my kids even know the current president's name.   President?  What's that?  Something that requires an election that you dread coming around every four years, I guess.

So can we just skip this next election, please?  Obama can just hang up his hat and go and let's just not bother with a replacement.  Please? Congress can continue being constipated and the rest of us holding the country together on the grassroots level can keep our day jobs?

Heck, if we must have an election, maybe we can just draw straws this time?  At this point drawing straws for presidency is a far more exciting prospect, and equally effective as our current format that gives us no clear solution at all.

Who will you parade around this year, presidential election?  The wealthy candidate who uses my values to bait me into voting for them or the wealthy candidate who uses my uses my values to bait me into voting for them?  Hm.  Let's see.

Nope.  You can keep it to yourself, presidential election, or announce it to the world, I really don't care.  Your very name now dishonors the veterans who have died for your sake. I vote almost solely out of hallowed respect for their sacrifice and valor.  

Valor, and honor, by the way, presidential election, are those qualities that command respect in and of themselves and not just because someone in Hollywood threw you a fancy fundraiser.

Let's get this over with, presidential election - I know you are going to come anyway and you know that I am going to have to vote one of your circus animals into office.  It's inevitable.  Let's do this. 

 I only ask that we get this over quickly so that the rest of us busy with real life can get back to it soon.  At least give me that, won't you?  The ability to forget you?   Until the next time.  In which case just reread this then too.  Signed, just another Joe Shmoe 'Merikan.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Temptation to Skip a Sinner's Funeral

I recently faced an unusual temptation to skip the Catholic funeral of someone whom I know did not live well.

Shame on me.

Pope Francis has literally just called for a year of Mercy and here I am, sinner so aware of my need for mercy, not willing to extend it to my fellow sinner in Christ.  As if it was too late for that person , and like it would be a ...waste?...of my time to attend their funeral.

Again, shame, shame on me, giving them the cheap mercy of "I'll remember you when it is convenient to me and my arms-length, no effort on my part, compassion."

No, my friends.  Only paying homage to those we perceive as deserving of honor in death will not do.  It is not merciful, it is not reverent, it is hardly Christian.

And seriously, which soul needs my prayers the most?  Probably the one at whose funeral it will be a struggle on some level for everyone to pay respects.

So what happened?  I attended the funeral and it was a solemn but respectful affair.  This person, despite their human failings, had always been kind to me and apparently, to others who were grieved for their loss.  It was a good lesson for me never to sweep someone's life under a rug just because their sins were grave and public.  Even heinous sinners leave behind friends and family whose commemoration of their loved one's death also seems to help their own healing.  So it seemed to be the case with this person.

All life and death are empty without Christ and I would not wish separation from God on anyone, whether living or deceased.  So kindly remember to pray for that soul who passed away that if she is not yet in the peace of Christ, she be there soon.  Also, kindly pray for a sinner like me to grow in love for all people during this very aptly named Holy Year of Mercy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

So why do you prefer the Latin mass, really?

Alright, Latin mass attendees, here's you chance to gush.

I want to know what you love about the Latin mass.

As a Novus Ordo goer, who has only attended a handful of Latin masses (and probably only because she didn't make it in time to her preferred venue) I struggle to know why anyone becomes a devotee to that form of the mass.

It's not the Latin thing.  I love Latin.  I just really love the Novus Ordo.

Permit me a moment of gushing.

I love the Novus Ordo.  I love its structure and flow.  I love hearing the Word of God proclaimed in English.  I love listening to the consecration prayers (when I can, over the kids) and I love feeling the mass resound in my soul - it's not this way all of the time, of course, but grace mostly comes.

I love the songs.  My particular parish uses the Adoremus Hymnal, and I know many hymns by heart.

I love how we have options for how to receive the Eucharist.  My particular parish uses a communion rail which I appreciate as my family can kneel together.  But whether we kneel or stand (depending on how many kids we are holding or if I am pregnant), receive in the hand or on the tongue (because flu season) I appreciate that there are many ways to reverently receive Christ.

No kiss of peace or corn for you!
Admittedly, I am a bit of a kiss of peace curmudgeon...we keep the kisses in-family and gesture at everyone else but I really don't mind when someone politely extends their hand.  I just slap it away in disgust a la Nacho Libre.  Okay, not really.

I just love the Novus Ordo.  Respectfully, reverently done, even with several traditional elements (we sing the Ave Maria in Latin at the end of every mass) with holy priests at the helm,  it rocks my world.

The Latin mass...not so much.  A bit of a spiritual dry well for me.

But maybe I'm missing something?  Hence I want to hear from the Latin mass goers: why do you prefer the Latin mass?  In responding, please limit your answers to the Latin mass, or the spirituality of the mass itself and how it feeds you personally.

The reason for this is that many times when I've posed this question, I've received more of a venting response against the Novus Ordo. Responses like, "The people who go to the Latin mass dress better and are more respectful," or "It's high mass (implied tone: why would I ever want to go to a low mass?)..." or "The Latin mass used to be the treasure of the Church..." which as nice as that is, still doesn't answer my question about why they personally attend the Latin vs. any other form nowadays.

By the way: the same Novus Ordo mass that I profess to love is not perfect by any means.  People don't always dress like it's Easter or come on time (Guilty! Yes, flip flops do happen in California I am afraid!). Sometimes you hear a cell phone and many enthusiastic individuals elbow their way to the communion rail to receive Jesus in a shameless display of eucharistic line olympics.

So why do I still love the Novus Ordo, in sprite of that?  Because I go to mass to go to mass and for no other reason.  And I attend one that feeds me. Period.

How about you, Latin massers?  I want to know! Comments are now unmoderated just for you! Go!


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent for Tired Moms

It’s baack.  It’s Advent.  We laid out the Advent wreath, blessed it and lit the first candle.

I reveled in the blessed flame for a sweet moment until the demands of the infant in his high chair needing food shoveled in his mouth brought me back to domestic life.

I confess it: I secretly envy those who aren’t in the baby stage years anymore.  I have to fight the bitterness as I wipe up mouths and messes all around the table while the season of joy is burning away faster than the lit purple candle.

“Mommy, the wax is getting everywhere…” my six year old points out that the candle, which is just slightly tilted, is apparently off kilter enough to burn unevenly and make a huge mess of things at its base. 

“Thank you, darling.” I say.  I guess Advent has started.

How I want to savor every moment, crooked candle and all.  But even the joy is work; it is a labor, and the worker is often too tired to really experience it.

I think of Mary at the end of her pregnancy during this time.  There was no Advent yet. There was just this Roman imposed census and this journey she was going to have to make while she neared her delivery.  

Did she too have to labor to experience joy in her un-ideal circumstances? It couldn’t have been all rosy and mystical like we get to experience with our advent wreathes, nativity scenes and baking marathons.  What was it like for her?

For the past few months I have been keeping close Our Lady of Guadalupe in the hopes of, I don’t know, actually getting to know her.  And maybe I just need her.  I need to know that it’s okay not to be in perpetual spiritual bliss twenty four seven. 

I need to know that the tiredness of being a mom is a part of and not separate to what Advent means and that I don’t have to try to fake being joyful.  I need to know that the joy of the season, hard work it though it may be, is still a valid joy and that the grace to feign off that bitterness towards life is pretty substantial grace in itself.

To those that are able to immerse themselves in Advent with daily mass, devotional readings, special advent prayers etc., please remember those of us who are just glad that the crooked purple candle gets lit a couple of times.

Please pray for those of us who can’t go two feet without a request or boo-boo or kid problem needing attention and that only get to experience some of advent while the kids are busy watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol.   I'll admit it! I am probably watching Mickey too. This is as good as it gets for now, and sometimes we just need the encouragement that that’s okay.


And Blessed Mother, please pray for those parents who, like yourself at this time of you, aren’t living in the most ideal circumstances.  This joy of the season, for some is a labor.  Please help us remember the greatest labor and joy are yet to come.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Here's An Idea For the Synod: Free Prenatal and Post-partum Services

Free pre-natal and post-partum services at all Catholic hospitals nationwide.  Period.

And I'd bet that all the "war on women" accusations would stop overnight.  Well, not in some circles to be sure.

Imagine: a pregnant woman sitting in front of her computer scanning her options for free prenatal services.

What's that?  Planned Parenthood?  No, they always have those protestors out front and besides, aren't they a bit twisted?

Oh, but look!  The local Catholic hospital offers the same services for free (minus the birth control and abortion).  Really?  Catholics taking care of women?  Those crazy zygote-lovers who believe in the sanctity of life from the moment of conception...is actually taking care of people, zygote people, from the moment of conception?

No required insurance??  In fact, we don't even care if they have insurance or not...it's a human life and a mother, people!  Is there no room at the inn for the mothers carrying unborn children at our illustrious Catholic hospitals?

Pipe dream?

The logical next step?

I mean, as a Church, what would happen if we actually became THE place for pregnant women to turn to to learn about everything reproduction related.  Wow.  What might actually happen then?  Oh, I dunno, conversion?  Connecting with those who need us the most.  Where is that in our mission statement?  Oh, everywhere, that's right.

OR  how about this idea: Catholic hospitals absorbing and supporting the zillion crisis pregnancy centers across the country who already do this.

Either way.  It's a family issue and should be a Synod issue, I think.  What do you think?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Life Without Birth Control

55275514
My husband and I are seven years in and we still can't tell what our friends and family really think of our birth control-free lifestyle.

Well, that's not totally true, I can sort of tell.  I suspect that most either expect us to ditch the whole Natural Family Planning thing any day now or they pretty much assume that I'm probably pregnant.  As in pregnant right now and every time they see me and all of the time.

But they are true friends which means at least they won't unfriend me on Facebook. I think.

They probably also wonder what my husband and I think of them.  The answer: yeah we're totally judgmental jerks.  Only, we so aren't.

We don't sit there "tsking" away at their acceptance of contraception or their sins, because then, as sinners we'd be hypocrites.

But he and I (mostly me) are NFP enthusiasts.  To a fault.  This is common knowledge amongst all our friends who tolerate it and us even if they aren't one hundred percent sure what NFP is.  To them, NFP means only one thing anyway: no birth control.   They know Jon doesn't wear anything and I don't alter my self in any way to be intimate with him.  I suppose I just hope that they wonder what that's like (but not in graphic detail).

What I mean is: I hope that they wonder what it's like to live without birth control.  Have my husband and I emulated the ideal NFP couple?  Pfft.  No way.  But it's normal life to us and frankly, neither of us would have it any other way.

So what are contraception-free Skittles really like? Well...

Life without birth control is actually when, at one point in the month, your husband has never been more attractive than any man on earth has ever been in that moment.   Once the "take me take me take me" feelings subside you then move onto the "meh" portion of the month.  The sex is still really nice but the rush and the adrenaline are gone during this time.  Mostly. In any case you remember how tired your million kids (sorry I just had to say it) make you and sleep trumps sex most nights.

Until the next month when the sexiness comes back, that is.  Notice, I made no mention of taking temperatures, or keeping your charts organized and applying various rules etc. etc.  Naw.  When something becomes a part of your life, you get pretty good at it.  NFP is like that too.

I know this account of life without birth control is over simplified for some.  Where's the monthly epic battle against all vices? Where is the abacus to record the spiritual dolors that come with periodic abstinence? Where's the gilt framed picture of the scared hearts of Jesus and Mary gazing creepily in the direction of your marriage bed?  This must be what most people think of when they meet a Catholic who doesn't use birth control!

Life without birth control is simply or not so simply this: it's life minus barriers and chemicals when you have sex. Period. Sounds great, right?  And it is!  So why aren't people lining up to hear more about it?

Once again, as an enthusiast, when I go to assuage their fears and clear up any misconceptions they have, I might actually be doing more harm than good in promoting NFP in lofty terms to someone.  Believe me I have tried, both with acquaintances and in large parish group settings.  "Need help conceiving? Call me!", "You're engaged? If you ever want to hear my NFP talk, let me know!"  I can almost hear them tossing the NFP idea out of their minds as they glance around to my zillion kids bouncing off the walls.

My "My NFP is Better Than Your Birth Control" bumper sticker most likely isn't helping me either.

About the kids.  We have three.  I know for some that's like saying three thousand, and the laundry pile makes it feel that way, but it's not.  It's three.  And you know what? We probably aren't done and that is normal too.

Plus we all know that as a good Catholic couple, my husband and I only care about making babies and not actually caring for them when they are here.  Just this morning I remember thinking, "Time for a new one!" as I threw an unsheathed banana in the direction of my eighteenth month old's cage.  Hey, at least I refill his water feeder from time to time.

Life without birth control, in short, is still normal life, just perhaps a bit sexier at a high point each month, way more organic, and yes, doable even for dummy like me.  But if none of that even remotely appeals to you, don't worry, the next time you want to have sex, I am sure there is an exciting pharmacy with a pimply teenager waiting to ring you up near you!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Why I Can’t Read or Watch Fifty Shades of Grey

It’s the middle of the night.

I make my way stepping over toys to the kids’ room in search of my husband. 

I find him half asleep and rocking our four year old son who has been experiencing night terrors.

In literally only a couple of hours my husband will have to get up and go to work for his family while we all sleep in.  It hardly seems fair to the man, having to suffer through the night only to wake up and go provide for his family.  However he does it, every single day, out of love for us.

That, to me, is a man and that is exactly why I can’t read or watch Fifty Shades of Grey where the main character, Christian (I hate that he is named this) Grey, ties up, beats up and practices all sorts of "BDSM" (bondage, domination, sadism, masochism) on his girlfriend.  And the girl, Anastasia (aw, how Disney), she’s in love with it, or him, or at least can’t seem to live without it or him, right? Healthy.

Here's the thing: people, women especially will never come to view Fifty Shades in the destructive, shameful light it should be cast in unless they have experienced what real masculinity and selfless suffering look like.  Unless they’ve encountered what it means to be in fully committed relationship (i.e. marriage), with someone who dies to themselves everyday, or in the middle of the night if need be, for them and their family, then a smut book like Fifty Shades is all mindless fun and games. 

That isn’t to say that married women and mothers haven’t read the book by the droves.  The book alone has sold almost one hundred million copies globally.  Mom-porn is the term, I believe.  Are you kidding me?

Wives, is BDSM the sort of sexual relationship you want with your spouse?

Is Christian Grey the man you’d want for your daughters? If you have a daughter, the thought of any man abusing them in such a way as Christian does Anastasia, and having it glorified as sexy, should spark immediate disgust. 

Is Christian Grey the man you want your sons to grow into?  I can’t even entertain the notion of any of my beautiful boys as Christian Grey without wanting to move to Timbucktoo just to avoid them ever exposed to the normalization of such shameful acts.

To those who say they would never do what’s in the story, but they don’t see the harm in reading the books and seeing the movie, please consider this:

Purity of heart is important and I submit to you that convoluting that purity with a story like Fifty Shades dampens your sense of God and therefore, right and wrong. 

If you can’t tell the difference between what is good and what is bad, then what’s to stop you from making seriously unhealthy decisions for your relationship?  From 'experimenting' or from the get-go choosing the wrong person to be with?

May the wise take heed: in reality, sexually impure acts, whether they are to the degree described in Fifty Shades or even if they take a less violent form, such as cohabitation (equally destructive over time), is the emotionally codependent path upon which many bad relationships tread for a long time.

Don’t do it.  Avoid the allure of twisted temptations sold as exciting.  Stick to the loving, selfless acts of charity that build up your spouse, family and yourself and upon which all healthy relationships are based.  All long lasting, sexually fulfilling marriages as well.